On Empty

Pamplona Travel Blog

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The beach at San Sebastian

Yesterday I arrived in Pampona from San Sebastian. Gill and I spent two days there, taking in the warm salty seaside air. As soon as we arrived, we looked at each other and agreed that we could have spent longer in Bilbao and missed out on San Sebastian. If you are a party animal and want to spend your day sunbathing on the beach like a sardine then it would be heaven.

The shoreline is broken into three lovely beaches by natural cliffs and the city itself hugs these beaches closely. Each of the swimming areas reminds me of the beaches in UK with numbered ´plots´ and a designated space to open the deck chairs.

Rows of deckchairs
Coming from New Zealand and Australia, this concept is somewhat foreign considering the amount of beach per head we have to play with.

Regardless, it was a fun place and I managed to hunt out some areas devoid of tourists so we could sample some local food and conversation. The first night we went for a long walk from our hotel on the far west end of the town to the far east arriving at ´Casco Viejo´(the old town). It was full of English, German and French teenagers, hanging out in bars with English, German and French menus! Not really Spain at all so we walked back to the hotel as the sun was setting and enjoyed a lovely salad in peace.

Despite all my attempts, I really have not stopped since finishing the Camino. Every time I reach a new place, I have visions of sleeping for 12 hours but my body thinks otherwise.

Crowds
This night in San Sebastian, I was so weary that I think I was asleep in the lift to our room but as usual, I slept lightly and woke early.

After another day exploring the commercial centre (and a little micro shop) we headed out for dinner to a quiet area behind all the shops. A lively local band was serenading outside several of the bars apparently getting ready for a barrio fiesta. A barrio is like a neighbourhood and here in Spain, each barrio has a strong identity often competing against neighbouring barrios in all sorts of competitions. Music and food are always hand in hand!

We found a cute bar Called ´Bar José Luis´and were treated to some of the best and freshest pinchos (tapas) so far. We sampled the freshest tortilla, prawns, bacalao (salt cod) and minced lamb wrapped in roasted pepper .

Liquor
. . .delicious. José closed and shuttered the front doors quite early at midnight, with us inside!  . . . but we soon realised that he was one of the early openers and therefore closed early for some sleep. He was still happy to chat to us for a while and even treated us to an icy cold glass of Casera which is the local version of Liquor de Hierbas. It was a lovely way to end off our scrumptious meal and our last night in San Sebastian. While walking back to the hotel we stopped off at another bar but I will save that story for the book!

I said a sad goodbye to Gillian in the morning and headed to Pamplona for the weekend. It is my second time here as I first walked into this beautiful town five years ago on my first Camino de Santiago (Camino Frances).

Pamplona - identifyig the three sectors of the city
Today I watched the pilgrims walking in through the Puerta de Francia (the French Arch) and my heart sang for them knowing they have about 600km more to arrive in Santiago.

This town is almost dedicated to the Camino de Santiago.  On a walking tour this morning I discovered that an entire section of the town was built in the 11th century by French shopkeepers, shoemakers, merchants and gardeners all supplying the needs of the thousands of pilgrims passing through here from France and further north in Europe. In those days the city was divided into three distinct walled villages: the original Roman settlement, the French traders and a third area inhabited by the farmers under the rule of the Church. Finally the walls were pulled down between the three by the new royal leader, King Carlos III.

Hemingway - Pamplona's famous son
He quickly set about creating one set of laws and one homogeneous town centred around the marvellous Plaza de Castillo, so named because there used to be two castles on opposing corners.

If you have read any of Hemingway, you may be familiar with his descriptions of this plaza in the early 20th century. He stayed here often in Hotel La Perla, one of the oldest Hotels in Spain and occupying an entire corner of the plaza. He even used to ensure that each year for San Fermin (the Running of the Bulls) he rented a room overlooking Estafeta Street so he could watch the bulls in the morning and write on the balcony in the afternoon. In between he would drink his scotch at Café Iruña in the morning and café in the afternoon. This glorious old bar is still the grandest in the plaza and a favourite of both tourists and locals

So now I am off to Café Iruña for my café in the late afternoon.

Cafe Iruna (Pic by Galena Stefanoff)
It has been sweltering here today (about 35C with no wind at all). I have literally crashed at about 3.00pm both yesterday and today as my tank is running on empty and it has caught up with me. I will need to be well rested tomorrow as Juan arrives and we head up to the Pyrenees. We will spend about 8 days walking a route called La Senda De Camille, taking in a little of France as well. If you are interested, here is the site in Spanish http://www.lasendadecamille.com/la-senda-de-camille.php

I have really enjoyed my little mini stay back in Pamplona but after seeing the narrow paved streets used for the San Fermin festival, I am glad I am Running on Empty and not Running with the Bulls!

Besos, Grace

 

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The beach at San Sebastian
The beach at San Sebastian
Rows of deckchairs
Rows of deckchairs
Crowds
Crowds
Liquor
Liquor
Pamplona - identifyig the three se…
Pamplona - identifyig the three s…
Hemingway - Pamplonas famous son
Hemingway - Pamplona's famous son
Cafe Iruna (Pic by Galena Stefanof…
Cafe Iruna (Pic by Galena Stefano…
Pamplona
photo by: brettjayhawk